Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Covid-19: New Measures: Statements


5:57 pm

Photo of Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance)

I will share an encounter I had today in the canteen in Leinster House. I spoke to one of the service officers who I had not seen in a considerable time. He said I could mention his name, John. I said I had not seen him in a while and he said that he had been very sick with Covid. It was very touch-and-go as to whether he lived or died. He lived, but he wants to say a big thank you to all the staff in the Mater hospital who saved his life. It just shows that, through this pretty awful virus, people survived and can tell the story. I wanted to start with that good news story.

Many people are fatigued and weary of this virus, but a collective resilience is also going on that has brought us through the worst ravages of this pretty awful disease. Whatever we do next, things hang in the balance. This virus has shown itself to be very adaptable and we have to adapt to it. There is almost a counter-attack by this virus on the world and we need to attack the virus because it is like a war situation. I will be constructive rather than destructive on this issue. I try to be constructive as much as I can because it is collective effort that will get us through the dark days of this dire virus.

A number of issues need to be looked at, including contact tracing in schools and walk-in PCR testing, both of which the Government has let its guard down on, and ventilation, which, as many of us have said, has not really been taken as seriously as it should. Even in the Chamber, many of the windows are open. They are open for one reason; this is a viral condition and the more fresh air that comes into a building, the better the chance that people will not contract the disease.

There are also mixed messages about antigen testing. There is quite a lot of ambiguity on that, and on whether people will or will not use antigen tests and the situations they will use them in. They are a good tool to have in the arsenal against this disease. I will make the comparison to hand-to-hand combat. Sometimes those antigen test kits are needed and they should be freely available. The Minister talked about the cost of them on the radio a few days ago, but that is open to question. Pop-up centres were very successful at the height of the pandemic. Many people used them and they are very useful during this pandemic.

On ICU capacity, I will run this movie forward. I do not want to be pessimistic but if the worst ravages of this disease, as projected by the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, were to result in 400 to 500 people in ICU we would have a serious problem in this country. Doctors and nurses would have to choose who gets ventilation and who does not. That is a pretty dire situation that will, hopefully, never happen but if it does, we do not have the capacity because of the historical legacy of cuts to public health services throughout the past 25 years.

When we come out of this, which we will, and we will come out a stronger people because that is who we are and it is what makes us good, one issue will be access to health services. I do not know the Minister's ideological position regarding public and private health services. My ideological position is that I am categorically for a one-tier health system, not a two-tier system or one of private insurance. I am for a system like the National Health Service, NHS, which is not perfect by any means, but it is the system that produces better results for everybody. Hopefully, at the end of all this, we can say our Irish system gives to everybody regardless of whether someone is on social welfare or is a millionaire.


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